Most medications are no fun, and they’re even less fun with side effects. For those with Alzheimer’s, taking medications may be an even worse experience than it is for most.
People with Alzheimer’s often do not know they’re experiencing side effects from a medication, or they may not be able to communicate the side effect to their caretakers. It’s up to the caretakers, therefore, to watch for these issues.
Most side effects are not life-threatening, but often something can be done about them, such as a switch in medication or a change in dose. Some home remedies could be useful as well. Because these solutions exist, it is important to pay attention to the appearance of side effects after a person with Alzheimer’s switches to or adds a medication; the more aware you are, the more likely you are to catch the issue and be able to do something about it.
Below are 11 potential side effects of the most commonly prescribed medications used to treat Alzheimer’s. If you’re unsure whether what you’re seeing is a side effect brought on by an Alzheimer’s drug, talk to the person’s doctor.
Constipation is a known side effect of memantine (Namenda®). A doctor may be able to prescribe a different drug to treat Alzheimer’s if the side effects are too troublesome, but other constipation remedies such as tea, coffee, fiber, or a natural laxative could help as well.
Nausea is an overwhelmingly common problem, listed as a potential side effect for donepezil (Aricept®), galantamine (Razadyne®), rivastigmine (Exelon®), and memantine-donepezil combinations (Namzaric®). The only frequently prescribed Alzheimer’s medication which does not have nausea as a side effect is memantine (Namenda®), which means a change of medications is not likely to help in this situation (but definitely consult the person’s doctor to make sure). Try a home remedy like ginger or peppermint tea to help alleviate this issue.
Headaches are a side effect of memantine (Namenda®) and memantine-donepezil combinations (Namzaric®), as well as galantamine (Razadyne®). The sufferer’s doctor may be able to make a medication change to ease this issue, but standard headache remedies could also help. Peppermint and lavender oils, magnesium supplements, and certain herbs and vitamins are known to help with headaches. Be sure to consult a doctor before adding other medications to treat the headache.
Click “next” below to read about more side effects you should be watching for.
Elizabeth Nelson is a wordsmith, an alumna of Aquinas College in Grand Rapids, a four-leaf-clover finder, and a grammar connoisseur. She has lived in west Michigan since age four but loves to travel to new (and old) places. In her free time, she. . . wait, what’s free time?